GM blight-resistant trials ‘successful’

British trials of genetically modified blight-resistant potatoes have been hailed a success.

Scientists at Norfolk’s John Innes Centre have developed varieties of potato that are resistant to late blight.

Early results from the third year of trials at Colney, Norwich, showed that GM potatoes remained healthy, while traditional potatoes planted alongside got blight.

Research leader Jonathan Jones said the GM potatoes combatted blight in the worst disease onslaught for years.

For the trial, 192 potato plants were planted in June 2010 and the field trials were repeated last year and early this summer.

The trial was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

It is hoped that the trial will lead to the development of a pipeline of blight-resistant genes to protect the most popular commercial varieties against late blight.

British farmers spray on average 15 times a year to protect against potato late blight, the disease that caused the Irish potato famine.

In total, British growers spend an average of £60m every year tackling blight, a disease that causes annual global losses of about £3.5bn.

Philip Case on G+

See more